What is grown in Niger
Marhaba, bonjour, welcome to Niger, the desert country in the middle of North Africa!
Niger forms a bridge between the Arab world and the world of Black Africa. Old, mysterious rites are still cultivated behind the walls of the cities. In addition, the most beautiful desert in the world extends here. For the dinosaur experts among you: One of the largest dinosaurs has been excavated in Niger. Find out which ancient animal once lived here!
Niger is a landlocked country, it has no access to the sea. It has seven neighbors: Algeria, Libya, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Nigeria and Benin. The country is largely covered by desert and suffers from frequent droughts. The only bodies of water are Lake Chad and Niger.
For comparison: With 1.27 million km² Niger is about four times the size of Germany. But it is not so densely populated because the country consists mostly of desert.
Niger lies on the southern edge of the Sahara and consists of two thirds of the desert. Niger lies at an altitude of 300 to 500 m. The north is covered by sand and stone deserts of the Sahara. The semi-deserts are dry, only grasses, thorn bushes and acacias grow.
On the photo on the right you can see the endless expanse of the Sahara. Only a few Tuaregs still roam the desert, mostly traders and camel breeders who still use the old caravan routes to transport their goods.
The mountains in the center of Niger
The Air Mountains are located in the center of Niger, on the map you can find them north of Agadez. The Air is a high mountain range that is around 2,000 meters high. In the Air Mountains there is also the highest mountain in the country, the Idoukal-n-Taghès with a height of 2022 m. Numerous wadis rugged the mountains.
Sedentary Tuaregs live in the few oases. They do horticulture and keep camels and small animals. Anabrees and toothbrush trees grow on the edges of the wadis, dry rivers that sometimes carry water. They are so called because you can make a toothbrush out of pieces of branch. The residents here actually have very well-kept teeth.
In the photo above you can see a camel caravan resting at a well in the Air Mountains. The hay bales in the foreground contain the feed for their animals, which they have to drag along.
Where do the residents get fresh water from here? From wells and from the oases. On the photo on the left you can see the oasis in Timia, it offers a source of water between the bare rocks. With its ancient rock paintings, the northern part of the mountain, together with the Ténéré sand desert, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On the rock paintings in the mountains you can see that many wild animals used to live here. Some of them, especially antelopes, can still be seen here today. The inhabitants of this region have also been raising cattle thousands of years ago.
The Ténéré sand desert in the east
The Ténéré sand desert, which is called the "desert of all deserts", extends in the east of Niger. The Tuareg call it "land out there". The huge gravel desert is like a board in the north, while sand dunes provide variety in the south. Its kilometer-long sand dunes and beautiful oases are among the most worth seeing sections of the Sahara. The large sandy desert of Bilma, the 'Grand Erg de Bilma', connects to the Ténéré. This desert stretches for 150 km from the city of Bilma to the Agadem oasis. It consists of several high and numerous smaller chains of dunes. The area is uninhabited because literally nothing grows here. There is no water source, even desert animals can hardly be found here.
The fertile areas in the south
Niger is also called the "country without forests". Only in the south, on the border with Nigeria, are there more dense stretches of forest. Because here it rains more often than in the dry north.
More about the landscapes of the Sahara
The Niger ensures fertility
The inland is named after the Niger River, although the river only flows through the western edge of Niger. D.he Niger provides the little fertile soil. Agriculture is practiced here and most of the industries and banks are located here. You will also find most of the cities and the capital Niamey along the Nile. Look closely at the river on the map. It runs in the far west of the country. Nevertheless, it is very important for residents, because it ensures a small, agriculturally usable area. It makes up only four percent of the entire country, but almost all vegetables and grains are grown here.
On the photo on the right you can see the women who wash their laundry here as they did centuries ago. The laundry day is the most important news exchange for them.
More about the Niger River
In the southeast, Lake Chad forms the border with Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria. It is an inland lake, which means that it has no drainage. The Shari River supplies most of the water. The lake is located on the southern edge of the Sahara. It is a tiny remnant of a large inland sea that once covered the southern Sahara and Niger. Today there is only desert here. The lake provides water and food for numerous peoples. More than 12 million people live around Lake Chad. They live largely from fishing and agriculture. Over the millennia, the lake has changed its size again and again. But since 1963 something frightening has been happening. Because since then Lake Chad has shrunk by 90 percent. This tremendous dehydration is due to the abstraction of water by agriculture, but mainly due to climate change. Today the residents call the body of water "the dying lake". Can Lake Chad still be saved? There are plans to draw water from other sources into the lake through artificial channels. It is not yet known whether this will work. There is a glimmer of hope that the Nigerien part of Lake Chad will be declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Hopefully this will help the boy in the photo on the right who is fetching water.
Lake Chad is only one meter deep in most places. Reeds, papyrus and water lettuce flourish in the lake. They provide food for birds and fish. Which fish live in Lake Chad? Numerous carp species, catfish, tetras-like fish that live in the fresh waters of the Sahara and in tropical Africa, the African bone-winged fish, Nile perch, cichlids and the exotic puffer fish.
Already knew? Niger offers a treasure trove for dinosaur fans: Here researchers discovered some of the oldest dinosaur fossils. Dinos lived here when the Sahara was still fertile land. That was in the Neolithic, so it was a long time ago.
Wildlife in Niger
In Niger you can find animals of the desert and the Sahel. In the desert-like north of the country, grasses and bushes only grow when the rain fills the dry wadis with water. Then the bushes and the few acacia trees turn green. In the oases of the deserts and in the Air Mountains, dum and date palms thrive, and in some of the oases there are also lush gardens. In the north live ostriches, gazelles and the rare Addax antelopes, which are among the particularly endangered wild animals in Niger. The dama and dune gazelles as well as the wild dogs are also at home here, but they too have become rare. Desert cheetahs have even been discovered in the termite desert. In order to protect the fauna, an area of approx. 100,000 km² in the desert has been designated as a national nature and cultural reserve. The Tin Toumma Nature Reserve is the largest African nature reserve.
In the higher elevations of the Air Mountains, wild olive trees, figs and cypresses still grow. Acacias thrive in the dry steppe landscapes. Here are the hiking areas of the nomads, who lead their herds of animals to the best pastures. Antelopes, gazelles, barbels, birds of prey and numerous small animals and insects live here.
Hippos and Nile crocodiles live around Lake Chad. Antelopes visit the banks, including the shy sitatungas, also known as swamp antelopes. Hussar monkeys romp through the bushes, sometimes a herd of elephants even appears and quenches their thirst. Domestic birds are ducks and geese such as the widow whistle goose or the humpback goose with its huge hump on its nose. However, only the male representatives of this goose have this hump. Other native birds are the Arab bustard and the gray-headed gull. The wetlands around Lake Chad are also important for the migratory birds from the north. They fill their bellies here before moving further south. Many also stay here and overwinter, because the swamps are a paradise for insects.
Mahogany, kapok and baobab trees grow in the south of Niger. The Niger River is home to hippos, crocodiles, snakes and numerous species of birds. There is a giraffe reserve east of Niamey. These are the last giraffes in West Africa! You are under special protection. Those who hunt the elegant long-legged friends are severely punished. Herds of monkeys roam the pasture zones in the northeast, the animals are cautious and shy, you can hardly see them.
The "National Park W" southeast of Niamey is another world natural heritage site in Niger. The park was established by Niger, Benin and Burkina Faso. The Niger River runs here in two arcs, like the letter "W", hence the name W. Typical inhabitants of the savannah like elephants, buffalos, cheetahs and lions live in this area. In the photo on the left you can see an elephant that is taking a "sand bath" to protect its skin from the sun.
Already knew? The Dama gazelle is the symbol of Niger and can be found on the emblem of the Nigerien football team.
More about the animals of the desert
Niamey, the capital of Niger
Niamey is located on the Niger River. Once the city consisted only of small villages that lined up to the right and left of the Niger. In the 20th century, the villages were merged into one city by the then colonial power of France.
Today Niamey is the most populous city in Niger with over one million inhabitants. And since Niger gained independence, it has also been the country's capital. It is the country's political, economic and cultural center. That was not always so. The old cities of Zinder and Agadez used to be the economic centers. But that has changed since the French colonial era. The Niger was the most important trade route in West Africa. Therefore, the French colonial power combined small fishing villages on the Niger to form a larger administrative community. Since Niger's independence in 1960, Niamey has become the country's capital. Today you can still see that the city consists of villages. Skyscrapers are rare, adobe buildings define the cityscape.
The city developed right and left on the banks of the Niger. Two large bridges cross the river: the "Kennedy Bridge" and the "Bridge of Friendship China-Niger". Due to its location on the river, the city has a green belt. Even forests thrive here in the otherwise relatively dry area. There are no large department stores or industries in Niamey. The economic cornerstones of the city are trade and handicrafts. The health facilities in the capital are well organized, unlike in the rest of the country. There are state hospitals and private clinics. The residents get clean drinking water from private wells and water sellers. Only the rich have water toilets, otherwise there are traditional latrines. Petroleum lamps are often used for lighting. Because the supply of electricity often collapses.
The Grand Marché of Niamey
In the picture on the right you can see the Grand Marché of Niamey, the largest market in Niger. It extends around the Kennedy Bridge. It is a fabulous six hectares and is considered a symbol of the city. Groceries such as rice, flour, sugar and oil are sold on hundreds of stalls. You can also find all kinds of traditional and modern clothing, shoes, blankets, fabrics and the coveted batik fabrics from Mali. As in all African markets, you can also find jewelry, glass beads and cosmetic products from all over the world. Of course there is also entertainment electronics, mosquito nets and all kinds of housewares.
Zinder and Maradi, the big cities in the south
Other large cities on Niger are Zinder and Maradi. With 320,000 inhabitants, Zinder is the second largest city in the country, it is located in the south. Zinder is an old trading town, it goes back to the Sultanate of Zinder, which was founded in 1812. The sultan still lives in the sultant's palace with his large court of 450 people. On the photo on the left you can see the typical rectangular sand buildings, which are decorated with colored ornaments. This takes place every year in Zinder on the occasion of the Islamic Festival of Sacrifice Hawan Festival instead of. The focus of the festival is a traditional bullfight held by the city's butchers and their sons. They ride horses and try to catch the wild bulls. The festival is accompanied by the singing of the griots.
Peoples and languages
Niger is a multi-ethnic state with over 22 million inhabitants. A large part of the population lives in the south with the large cities Niamey, Maradi and Zinder. These regions are the fertile strip on the border with Nigeria and along the Niger River.
Niger is a "young" state, as more than half of the residents are under 15 years of age. The Nigerians are made up of ancient West African peoples. The traditionally living peoples are usually rich in children. A child grows up with six or seven siblings. Girls get married early. The task of women in the country is to raise children, cultivate the fields and milk the animals. The women and children from nomadic families enjoy more freedom. The women are independent. They have their own animals and sell their products in the market. You can determine the money you earn yourself. In Islamic families, the woman never leaves the homestead without the consent of her husband. Islamist influences have increased in recent years. The girls are married early, often underage. They live dependent on their husband's family. The girls receive a strictly Islamic upbringing and are also sent to Koran schools like their brothers. The illiteracy rate is high at around 20 percent. Most people do not own a television, so radio is the most popular medium.
About half of the residents belong to the Hausa, one of the great peoples in West Africa. They have been trading cotton and other goods for many centuries. The former Hausa states were in the border area between Niger and Nigeria. The trade went on old caravan routes from Kano to Niger via Katsina. These paths are still used today, but no longer by camel, but by truck.
A quarter is Songhai, Farmers who live west of the Niger River. They are also known for their handicrafts. The Songhai settle in the valley of the central Niger River. The Songhai have a long history. The Songhai Empire with the capital Gao was founded in 700 and lasted 900 years. The settlement area of the Djerma is the area around the capital Niamey and Dosso. The language and culture of the two peoples is very similar.
The Fulbe and Fulbe Woodaabemake up another quarter of the residents. They live in the southeast of Niger. They raise cattle and, in some cases, also cultivate fields. They belong to the Fulbe family of peoples, which is scattered throughout West Africa. Part of the Fulbe settled down and founded states before the colonial era. The Woodaabe are nomads. They raise cattle and always follow the rain with their herds to where there is enough water and pasture.
The tubu previously operated caravan trade, today they are owners of small animals. They move with their sheep and goats through the northern grass plains and the Tibetan Mountains. They love freedom and have never allowed themselves to be colonized. The Kanurilive in Mangaland. They are oasis farmers and have extensive experience with irrigation systems and the cultivation of date palms. As typical oasis inhabitants, they also take part in the caravan trade.
The yedina are called the "people of tall grass". They live on the shores of Lake Chad and on the islands. They live from fishing and from raising cattle. They are proud of their Kouri cattle, which are very popular with their large 'amphibian horns'. About a million belong to the Tuareg. They operate the salt trade between Bilma and Agadez.
More about the Tuareg
The Nigerien speak many languages
At least nine languages are spoken in Niger, and these languages are also very different. Many languages in Niger are also spoken in other neighboring countries: Hausa is spoken by around 120 million people, Fulfulde by around 25 million and Tamasheq by 1.2 million. Added to this is French, which has been spoken in Niger since colonial times and is now the official language and lingua franca. As in many neighboring countries, most of them speak more than two languages. The nomads in particular are multilingual; some speak four or five languages.
How is life in Niger?
The extended family forms the core of society; grandparents, parents and children, but also uncles and aunts and married children live close together in a family. The extended families either live in the same homestead or the families and relatives set up tents close together. The women are the pillars of society. They work in the fields and in the markets, they work as domestic helpers, in the handicrafts and in the markets. In strictly Islamic families, the woman never leaves the homestead without the consent of her husband. For many peoples in Niger, young girls are often married off early and often they do so without their consent. Around 40 percent of girls between the ages of 15 and 19 already have children or are pregnant. Education is of course neglected. Young married girls traditionally spend a few years with their husbands' families, where they help out with their mother-in-law's household, before they have their first child.
Disputes can be settled with a joke
Between nomads and resident peoples, there is always a dispute over water use and pasture areas. Since it is very important that people get along peacefully. How do you do it? If, for example, there is a dispute between the wandering Tubu and the Fulbe, then a "cousin" from another people settles the dispute. Even children learn that jokes can make others laugh. What doesn't work at all: Deliberately hurting someone.
Belief and religion
Today almost all Nigerians are Muslims, but the majority cultivate their ancient natural religions. Islam is spreading more and more in Niger, but it is rare to see women completely veiled. The official language is French, the Hausa language is the most widely spoken language in West Africa.
Already knew? The most unusual people in Niger are the Wodaabe, a nomadic people. They wander through the Sahel with their herds of cattle. Their name means "birds of the wild" because they live in great freedom. They are not tied to a state, they do not pay taxes, they have no obligations.
More about the Wodaabe
Festivals and celebrations
A particularly popular festival in Niger is the traditional wrestling, the Kokowa. It is difficult to say which people the wrestling comes from, because almost all West African peoples love this sport. When the wrestling festival comes up, there is no school for the children, the adults get a free day at work. Then everyone is on their feet and pilgrims to the big stadiums. The women have prepared a picnic and it's like a folk festival. Drum music is part of the wrestling festival. On the left you can see the royal drum maker who teaches children the art of making a melodious drum.
The "Festival de l’Air" in Iferouane is a special cultural event of the Tuareg in the northern Air Mountains. It takes place at the end of December. In southern Air, the festival of Timia is celebrated in mid-May.
The “Cure Salée” festival takes place in Ingall. At this festival, the Tuareg and Fulbe come together, who lead their animals to the greater Ingall area after the rainy season, so that they can absorb the salty soil and plants. This occasion is accompanied by a large festival attended by thousands of animal owners. Men and women wear their festive robes. The salt cure is increasingly becoming a cultural event at which well-known music groups perform and more and more tourists also arrive. Another big festival is the gathering of the Woodaabe after the rainy season, the Gerewol festival. On the photo on the left you can see festively decorated Woodaabe men at their Gerewol festival
Football is the modern number 1 national sport. Adults and children love football, it connects people from different races. There is a soccer field in every town, in every village. Balls are made from all possible materials, your own soccer shoes are a particularly valuable treasure. When the "Mena", the Nigerien national team, loses in the African competition, the whole nation is sad.
school and education
School is no fun for the children in Niger. In Niger there is ten years of compulsory schooling. Attending school is free of charge, but every child has to buy exercise books, books and pens themselves. For many families, this is a huge purchase. Because most of them do not earn more than 200 euros a year. The average number of students per class is 60 children. The lessons often fall by the wayside. The education system is a legacy from colonial times. It is adapted to the French system and takes little account of the realities of life of the population. So it's no wonder that many parents prefer to leave their children at home. That is not a solution, because 85 percent of men and 90 percent of women cannot read or write. In addition to the state schools, there are around 50,000 Koran schools that teach in Arabic. Only boys were allowed to attend the Koran schools in the past, but more and more girls are also being sent to these schools. More about schools in Africa
Economy and Natural Resources
Niger is an agricultural state, which is astonishing because the arable land is very small. Only three percent of the area is suitable for farming. Agriculture is primarily dependent on the climate, and thus primarily on the rain. If there is no rain, or if grasshoppers and bushfires destroy crops, the rural population is threatened with starvation. Only along the Niger can people make a good living from farming. Millet and sorghum millet thrive on the barren soils, as do corn, some wheat and rice. Beans and tomatoes are grown for personal use. There is a traditional division between men's and women's fields in cultivation: women grow vegetables for their own needs, what is left over they sell on the markets. The market fruits such as peanuts, onions, pepper and cotton are grown by men and offered in the market.
Animal husbandry is much more important, because 12 percent of Niger is pasture and scrubland. The peripheral areas are called pastoral zones, they are mainly used for nomadic animal husbandry. Animals and animal products generate over 11 percent of the gross domestic product. In addition to cattle, goats, sheep and dromedaries are the most common farm animals, they are important for meat and milk production. The marketing of hides in particular is a lucrative business. Fulbe and Fulbe Woodaabe are traditional cattle farmers, they also have goats, sheep and donkeys. The Tuareg breed camels and also keep small animals. On the photo on the right you can see the animal market of Agadez, the desert city. Here camels are still the most important means of transport. The fisheries on Lake Chad and the Niger provide an important livelihood for the people living there.
Industry and natural resources
The industry in Niger consists mainly in the processing of raw materials from agriculture and in the extraction of mineral resources. Uranium, oil, gold and coal are mined in the mines. How does Niger earn the highest income? With uranium! Niger is one of the most important uranium producers in the world.When uranium was discovered in 1965, an artificial city was built on the edge of the Air Mountains. The uranium city of Arlit was built exclusively with components from France that had to be transported by sea. Today uranium is mined here by a French company, but the Chinese and other international companies have also entered the uranium business. There is no consideration for the population.
A lot of water is consumed in uranium mining, which people in the arid area around Arlit lack. In addition, the population is hardly protected from the radiation that is released during the breakdown. Therefore there is a lot of controversy between the government and the Tuareg who live there. The national commission for human rights is currently investigating the effects of uranium mining on the population. In the photo above you can see a street scene in Arlit.
Gold is Niger's second most important export good. About 13 percent of GDP is earned from exporting gold. The Nigerien state is a shareholder with only 20 percent, the remaining 80 percent are held by interested parties from abroad.
More people now work in trade, handicrafts and hospitality than in agriculture. More and more women work here. The craft ranges from clay, blacksmithing, braiding and leather work to stone working and weaving. Crafts and handicrafts are practiced in all regions, but special activities are reserved for separate professional groups or castes. Metal and leather work is carried out by the Tuareg blacksmith caste, and for the production of pottery there are villages in the south-west of the country with well-known potters. They make the large canaries for storing and cooling water. For example, you can see the recycling of aluminum and the pouring of large saucepans at the Katako market in Niamey. In the photo on the left you can see the roasted grasshoppers that the boys are selling at the Agadez market. When the swarms of locusts roam the country and empty the fields, children hunt the insects. Because they are roasted as a delicious snack.
A railway is under construction to connect Niamey with the cities of neighboring states in the west. Until the rail link is completed, the most convenient way to travel in Niger is by charter aircraft. Traveling by car is restricted. Niger has a Road network10,000 km in length. Of these, however, only 800 km are paved roads. The main roads connect the capital Niamey with the cities in the southern part of Niger. In bad condition is the road from Niamey to Agadez, the gateway to the desert. You can also travel by bus or by Bush taxi. These shared taxis are very cheap, but not comfortable. truck are often used as a means of transport outside of the cities. They're cheap and you can take all your household items with you. On the other hand, the trips are usually quite adventurous. Mobile markets like this overloaded vehicle in the photo on the left are everywhere in the cities.
Niger - a poor, rich country
Niger is considered the poorest country in the world. The per capita income in Niger is around 1,200 US dollars a year. You cannot support a family with this low income. Therefore, most of the women work and contribute to the family income. They sell what is left of agriculture on the markets, but above all they work in the so-called "informal" sector. They work as tailors, hairdressers, domestic servants and other service areas. Niger suffers from overpopulation; most families cannot finance a good education for all children. You can't pay expensive doctors or provide access to clean water. In addition, desertification is increasing.
Agadez was a center of the caravan trade. The city was founded in the 15th century by Berber tribes in the middle of the desert. It was the capital of the Air Sultanate, which still exists today. The city is only built of mud houses. Because far and wide there are no stones and no wood. The Agadez Mosque is famous for its tall minaret that rises 27 meters into the sky. For an earth building, the height is a sheer miracle. Because the tower has to be repaired every year. The minaret can be seen for miles and is an important landmark for the caravans.
Already knew? In November there is a lot going on in Agadez, when the salt caravans arrive from Bilma and the markets are livelier than ever.
The history of Niger goes back thousands of years. About 10,000 to 4,000 years ago BC the Sahara was still fertile. This period is called the Neolithic or “Cattle Age” because the hunters and gatherers settled the land and began to raise cattle. This is shown by the rock carvings from the Air Mountains and the finds of stone tools and pottery along former lakes and rivers. Niger does not seem to play a significant role in Africa today. In the Middle Ages, however, it was very different. The good location between the Nigerbogen and Lake Chad aroused the desire of the great empires in the west and east of the continent early on.
More about the history of Niger
Niger was a French colony and gained independence in 1960. Since then, the Republic of Niger has seen many changes in political leadership experienced. The majority of the Nigerien presidents were authoritarian, which meant that only one party was allowed. So there were no critical voices against the prevailing politics. The presidents oppressed the peoples and enriched themselves beyond measure. The military put an end to the hustle and bustle and drove out the old rulers. But the situation never really improved. There were also many uprisings by the Tuareg against the exploitation of their land. Because it lies exactly in the zone in which uranium is mined today. It is uncertain when democratic conditions will return to Niger. Life in the arid desert land is tough. Most of the residents make a living from agriculture and suffer from regularly recurring droughts.
What about human rights and children's rights in Niger?
Human rights in Niger are not sufficiently respected. Women and children suffer most from it. On average, a woman has seven children, and they are seen as a pension. Therefore, child labor is the order of the day in Niger. And it is taken for granted that children help in the household and in agriculture. Life is especially tough for children. Most of them have little time for school and further education. They work in the fields from an early age or earn additional income to the family by working in the markets and running aid services. A word about slavery: Slavery is officially banned in Niger. However, there are still women and children who are considered to be Addicts live. Usually it is girls who work as domestic servants at a young age or boys who have to beg for gangs. Unfortunately, there are also human traffickers in Niger. Above all, they bring women and girls under their control and exploit them for all kinds of forced labor. The Niger government is doing too little to enforce anti-trafficking law, according to the US Human Trafficking Report.
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